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The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health


It is increasingly necessary to quantify the impacts of climate change on populations, and to quantify the effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation strategies. Despite growing interest in the health effects of climate change, the relationship between mental health and climate change has received little attention in research or policy. Here, we outline current thinking about climate change and mental health, and discuss crucial limitations in modern epidemiology for examining this issue. A systems approach, complemented by a new style of research thinking and leadership, can help align the needs of this emerging field with existing and research policy agendas.

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Fig. 1: Causal process diagram for the mental health effects of drought based on a systematic review.
Fig. 2: Top-level causal process diagram showing major domains of distal, intermediate and proximate harm linking climate change and mental illness.


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Author information




H.B. conceived, drafted and revised the manuscript. T.W. drafted Box 1 and formatted the manuscript. K.D. drafted ‘required research and methods’ sections. T.C. and V.M. included material about international projects. All authors critically reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Helen L. Berry.

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Berry, H.L., Waite, T.D., Dear, K.B.G. et al. The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health. Nature Clim Change 8, 282–290 (2018).

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